Master Pizza Hosts Qualifying for Cleveland Pizza Challenge
ESPN Street Team at restaurant from 6-8 tonight with wild card slot in finals
Remember "Mushmouth" Mariano Pachetti? A regular guest on the Hoolihan & Big Chuck Show in the 1970s, Pachetti took on all challengers in displaying his ability to quickly devour a pizza.
He'd find plenty of tough competition nowadays in the Cleveland Pizza Challenge, sponsored by ESPN Cleveland 850AM. To qualify for the finals, which will be in Little Italy on Columbus Day, Oct. 10, contestants have to post one of the top five times at Master Pizza, 6643 Mayfield Rd., Mayfield Heights. There will also be five wild card finalists chosen by ESPN.
One wild card slot will be decided from 6-8 tonight when the ESPN Street Team makes an appearance at the restaurant and will give away prizes. Another wild card slot will be given away on Sept. 30 when Master Pizza owner Michael LaMarca appears on air on The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo.
LaMarca said he was approached by ESPN about the pizza challenge idea and asked to come up with a format for the competition.
"After two months of planning, we came up the the structure. We're thinking it'll be an annual event," he said.
No appointment is needed to enter the contest – just show up at the restaurant with a hearty appetite and finish off a medium pizza – plain, pepperoni, sausage or mushroom – and a soft drink as quickly as possible. Cost is $15 and you must be age 18 or older to enter. The last day of qualifying is Oct. 9.
At stake is a first place prize of an Ohio State VIP weekend, a year's worth of Coca-Cola and the coveted championship bracelet. Second prize includes a year's worth of Coca-Cola and third prize includes a Coca-Cola barrel tub.
Competition is fierce. Gwyn "Big Boy" Reeves has posted the top time at 3 minutes and 33.18 seconds. The fifth-place mark is at 6 minutes 29 seconds.
"This is big time," LaMarca said. "We've had professional competitive eaters in here to do it. The guy with the best time is a wing king champion."
LaMarca said customers have enjoyed watching when a contestant attempts to qualify.
"It's a spectacle and it's fast," he added.
LaMarca, whose wife shares his love of pizza, said they may go head-to-head to see who's faster.
In addition to Master Pizza and ESPN Cleveland, other contest sponsors include Coca-Cola, Amazing Tickets, U.S. Foods and Hormel Meats. LaMarca said proceeds will benefit Holy Rosary Church for scholarships.